F.B.I director James Comey wanted to go public with the information on Russian interference in the 2016 election as early as this summer, according to Newsweek, but officials within the Obama administration prevented him from doing so.
According to Newsweek’s sources, Comey pitched the idea of writing an op-ed about Russia’s involvement in June or July, presenting a “draft or an outline” during a meeting in the White House’s situation room. “He held up a piece of paper in a meeting and said, ‘I want to go forward, what do people think of this?’” the source said. Among the national security officials present for that meeting were national security adviser Susan Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson; it was shut down because those assembled thought that the message would have more impact coming from “multiple agencies.”
The op-ed would not have mentioned whether the FBI was investigating Donald Trump’s campaign workers or others close to him for links to the Russians’ interference in the election, a second source with knowledge of the request tells Newsweek. Comey would likely have tried to publish the op-ed in The New York Times, and it would have included much of the same information as the bombshell declassified intelligence report released January 6, which said Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to influence the presidential election, the source said.
While there’s no point in handwringing over what could have happened had Comey published the op-ed, it’s worth it to consider the timeline and how this information could have possibly influenced things.
In October 2016, the White House officially accused the Russian government of hacking and releasing emails and other information from the Democratic National Committee; in January, the U.S. intelligence community released a report determining that Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered an “influence campaign” aimed at the U.S. election in order to sway the election towards Donald Trump and away from Hillary Clinton. Just last week, U.S. officials confirmed that the F.B.I has information that suggests associates of President Trump were communicating with Russia in order to release information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Those of you paying attention surely recall that in July of last year, what Comey did publicly disclose was the results of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server —around the same time he wanted to publish his op-ed about Russia.
Imagine what could have been had Comey unleashed his missive into the world when he wanted to. Would we still be in this mess?